Thursday, September 02, 2004

Labor Rights Rally

I was heading down 8th Ave. to a Labor Rights rally on 30th and 8th when I was diverted west by the police, told I needed to head down 9th and approach the rally from the west. So as I turned down 9th Ave., I found myself enmeshed in an energetic march of the Service Employees Union, apparently heading to the rally. They were well organized, wearing signs that said "Tell Bush Healthcare YES, Tax Cuts For Millionaires NO" and chanting "Push Bush Out The Door, Push Bush Out The Door," repeat. Apparently seduced by the rhyme of Push and Bush, they also insisted that we "Push Bush In The Bushes." It looks awkward in type, but they made it work.

We finally reached the rally and I was surprised how moving some of the speakers were. Labor is still an important Democratic constituency, one that I know little about, and a movement that I generally don't get pumped up about. And the movement's relevance was called into question when the top unions couldn't deliver Iowa, a labor heavy state, to either Gephardt or Dean. But they certainly didn't seem irrelevant yesterday. These guys were particularly bristled at the Republicans' coming to New York for their convention. Tony Soprano himself got up to speak and expressed his anger:

"I can't tell you how angry I am that the Republicans have taken over my city! I can't tell you how angry I am that I can't get around my city without seeing cops that are needed to protect the delegates. And I can't tell you how angry I am that it took Goerge W. Bush 3 days to get up to New York to visit Ground Zero. He was a coward, in hiding for 3 days. If it were me, I would have been up here the next day."

And 9/11 really is the root of their anger. A labor leader spoke movingly of the firefighters who ran into the towers on 9/11, the police who served bravely that day, and the iron workers who were the ones who took apart the fallen rubble until it stopped burning. He spoke of an administration that did not deliver aid to the city as promised, an administration that has limited benefits to first responders and a party that is exploiting their heroism even as they are completely contemptuous of labor.

"George Bush wants everyone to think the national Labor movement is a special interest group. We're not a special interest group, we're the heart and soul of this nation, we're the heart and soul of this city!"


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